By Laura Burge
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
A TESCO Express store opening right next to a railway station and within an area where there are concerns over anti-social behvaiour has been granted a licence to sell alcohol for 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
"Because we already have a situation [where there’s anti-social behaviour], it does not mean it is OK to say that’s a precedent. I certainly think we shouldn’t promote the availability of alcohol coming in and out of the town, close to the station."
Representatives from the Hitchin store, located in Lyon Court, just off Walsworth Road, applied for an alcohol licence between the hours of 7am and 11pm Monday to Sunday.
It was granted by North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) licensing committee today (Wednesday).
But fears were aired over the impact it could have on an area which already suffers from anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Judi Billing, who represented Bearton ward where the store is situated, was at the committee meeting as an objector.
"“Alcohol products are carefully selected. There will be a maximum of 120 different alcohol products, compared to over 2,000 in some of our larger stores. "
Addressing the committee, she said: “Over the last few years, Hitchin has become something of a hub for young people coming into the town, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes [resulting in] public nuisance and anti-social behaviour within our town.
“Because we already have a situation [where there’s anti-social behaviour], it does not mean it is OK to say that’s a precedent. I certainly think we shouldn’t promote the availability of alcohol coming in and out of the town, close to the station.”
Cllr Billing did say that she wasn’t against Tesco as a store, but that she didn’t believe any other stores in the area had a licence as late as 11pm. She called on the committee to consider granting a licence for reduced hours, to come in line with other shops in the town.
“Of course I don’t think all hours should be prevented,” she added.
“I don’t have an issue with the licence at 7am; that time it will be commuters.”
In a report presented to the committee, there were other objections to the licence being granted, although these were not read out.
In a joint letter, Bearton residents Shaun and Harriet Mahoney said: “We did not object to the change of planning use at Lyon Court to a convenience store, as the provision of groceries to commuters did not appear to present a problem.
“However, Hitchin experiences at the weekend and during the evenings a lot of young people coming off the trains and walking into the centre of Hitchin. The idea that these young people will be able to purchase cheap alcohol both before visiting the centre and on their way back fills us with great concern, especially as it will encourage and increase in the amount of unruly and anti social behaviour and acts of vandalism as already experienced by ourselves and neighbours.
“I would like to remind the licensing panel that in 2010 the police had to bring in powers under the anti social behaviour act to cover this area and adjacent residential areas to overcome the numerous occasion of anti social behaviour. There is no need for the facility in this location to purchase take away alcohol in the evening after 8pm.”
Another resident, John Robertson, said: “I am sure you are aware that already there are lots of problems with noise, litter and vandalism in the area around the station. I believe that a licensing application allowing the sale of alcohol until 11pm will only exacerbate the problem and I think that the residents deserve a better deal.”
The Tesco store will open Monday to Saturday 7am-11pm and Sundays and bank holidays 8am until 9pm.
At the meeting, there were four representatives from the chain.
Jeremy Bank, representing the company, told the committee that he believed the store’s presence would actually reduce anti-social behaviour, and that staff would work with police to tackle any problems.
He also added that the store had no plans to increase Sunday opening hours now and in the near future to match the licensing hours, although he did not rule the option out.
“This is a Tesco Express. It’s a convenience store, aimed at those living and working locally,” he said.
“Alcohol products are carefully selected. There will be a maximum of 120 different alcohol products, compared to over 2,000 in some of our larger stores.
“Most of these products are red and white wine. There will be a very limited spirit range and a very limited beer and cider range.”